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Brad Foster’s transition from key worker to boxing’s front line

The British junior featherweight champion headlines the UK’s first show for almost four months – four months in which Foster has kept his feet grounded.

Boxing - Lamex Stadium Photo by Paul Harding/PA Images via Getty Images

“It was big when football returned to screens,” Foster, 22, told BBC Sport this week. “Now this is a chance for me to shine with boxing coming back and I’m 100% confident I will on the night.”

British junior featherweight champion Brad Foster aims to win the Lord Lonsdale belt outright this Friday in curious circumstances. Not since Nicky Booth in 2002 has a fighter claimed this accolade at such a tender age, and the unbeaten West Midlander is looking to add James Beech Jr’s name to that of Ashley Lane and Lucien Reid, whom he’s toppled for the 122-pound British title.

Boxing behind closed doors inside the BT Sport studios in East London, Foster and Beech will light the fuse for boxing to return in the UK. As we await the expected flood of fights following the lengthy drought — 16 shows are expected by the end of August — boxing’s traditional summer break will be invaded by those trying to restart their engines and breathe life into their stagnating careers.

Foster’s comparisons to the resumption of the Premier League are valid. Project Restart surfaced on June 17 with impressive success. Regular testing and a quarantined environment have facilitated the completion of the 2019-20 season, with boxing looking to piggyback on that success, capitalizing on the sporting hunger of a nation.

Since boxing’s shutters crashed down in mid-March, Foster has been reluctant to rest on his laurels. Working his regular 2-8 am night shift at his local Tesco supermarket has kept him busy and, importantly, grounded.

Key workers — those who are still needed at work to keep the country going during the COVID-19 outbreak — have rightly received the respect of a nation over the past four months. Despite not being able to spar during this time, Foster is looking forward to the transition from key worker to boxing on the sport’s front line.

“I keep both feet on the ground,” Foster told the 5 Live Boxing podcast. “I’ll work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on a night shift from two in the morning. I have a good boss at Tesco who works around my boxing. Then I sleep, wake up, and normally do two sessions.”

“I focus on this one as this was a goal to win the British title outright,” he added. “I have to do this one before we can unlock that next level. My head is saying that title is mine whether there’s a crowd there, a million people or zero and it’s just him and me. The job is to take that title home.”

It’s a fitting return for the sport. An ordinary, considerate man like Foster has been handed the keys to unlock boxing in the United Kingdom as he seeks a crowning achievement at just 22 years young.

Follow Lewis Watson @lewroyscribbles